The saddest part of technology is that it lacks ethics. .
Over the recent times, artificial intelligence has been in much debate. We are having a moral tussle with our own self and our own creations. Would our creations someday outdo us? Or have they already done it? Should we be afraid? Would robots wipe out the entire human civilisation? The likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg are already having a war of words regarding the artificial intelligence. The future of technology, or rather, of the world (for now technology is our entire world- how romantic!) presents a scary and dystopic picture. What kind of a future are we looking at? The future, as it seems to me, would be highly augmented/virtual/artificial/self-destructive; in other words- unreal! The human tangibility would be lost entirely. All that would be left for the humans to do would be- nothing!
What makes humans human and humane? Humans are intelligent beings with an assimilation of feelings like love, anger, fear, happiness. They are conscious beings with a set of cognitive abilities which enable them to feel, think, recall, sympathise, judge and imagine. What would happen when some other entity is able to do the same? A non-human human with augmented intelligence?!
‘Sofia’ made it to the headlines recently. Saudi Arabia declared this humanoid as its official citizen! She has been making celebrity appearances in the United Nations, popular TV shows, even music videos. I do not know how others see it, but to me it is very disturbing.
Isaac Asimov, a popular American science fiction author, in his short story- ‘Runaround’- postulates three ‘Laws of Robots’-
• A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
• A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
• A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws
Unless all the robots follow these laws, they would assuredly pose a great threat to the entire human existence.
Sofia is just one of the many existing (and innumerable to come in the future) humanoids. We are looking at a future where the even the most ‘human’ly tasks such as that of nursing and medicine would be looked after by robots. What then would our jobs be? Simply to exist and see these lifeless machines take over? To build our own coffins; or would that also be done by machines?!
These lines from George Orwell’s 1984 present an accurate picture of our future-
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”
However, we must remember – we cannot deal with artificial intelligence until we overcome our natural stupidity. The converse of the preceding sentence may also be true- artificial intelligence would pave way for more and more natural stupidity. In the words of Albert Einstein-
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity;
and I’m not sure about the universe.”
The human mind would certainly evolve more in the coming decades than it has in the past centuries. Such a speed is perilous. Speed kills, does it not? If not all at once, then at least gradually. Cities are growing at an unimaginable speed. We now have metro cities, even mega cities. The more the growth, the more poisonous the society becomes. One of the pioneers of the Modern Hindi Literature [the Nayi Kavita (New Poetry)]- Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana ‘Agyey’ very subtly put his concern regarding the urbanisation as –
तुम सभ्य तो हुए नहीं
नगर में बसना
भी तुम्हें नहीं आया।
एक बात पूछूँ–(उत्तर दोगे?
तब कैसे सीखा डँसना–
विष कहाँ पाया?”
What Agyeyji is hinting at is not hard to grasp. The maddening, fast-paced city life does add to the mental chaos, confusion and clutter.
Delhi’s Bhanwarlal Joshi and United Kingdom’s Jon Pedley have a lot in common. Apart from once being millionaires, the two are also among hundreds of other millionaires to have renounced all their possessions and begun to live by scant means. Joshi now leads his life as a Jain monk, whereas Pedley runs a children’s charity in Uganda! Somehow the hectic urbane life did not provide them with the much sought happiness and in the tree of a fully nourished life, instead of aiming for higher branches, they chose to go for the roots!
Is it now time that we go back to the age of Romanticism to look for tranquillity in the countryside all over gain, to resort in the lap of Nature all over again, to derive a sense of beauty and joy from the simplest of things all over again? In the words of the famous astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson-
“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.“
No, I am not condemning technology. It is as imperative for an individual and the society as it has always been.
Technology is becoming super-advanced with every passing day. Communication and transportation has been revolutionised. The medical filed has seen innumerable breakthroughs- we can now produce babies in labs; science is even working on genetically-modified (‘designer’) babies. Of late, IBM has designed a computer to study the masterpieces of Picasso and recreate them in the present times!
We have been awestruck by technological marvels on infinite scales; both- infinitely huge and infinitely minute. We have reached the stars, landed our spaceships on distant planets and other celestial bodies. We have unearthed great mysteries of this complex cosmos. We have penetrated into the deepest layers of the earth just as we have in the beds of vast oceans. The quest to find an alien life has already begun. On the tiny scale, we can now scrutinise an object by magnifying it by up to 50000 times! We can explore the tiniest iota of a body cell. No worldly aspect is left untouched by technology. However, between these two infinite extremes, lies an area where technology is yet to make its mark (God forbid, it ever does) – our soul, our conscience.
In our endeavour to run towards our technological best, we are running away from ourselves. Know thyself- so is the purpose of one’s life. The present times only takes us furthers us from ourselves.
This is an age where our every deed, action, emotion is driven by technology. Our society is governed by mere spectacles.It is up to us how we use technology- to extend our ‘instant’ help to the Kerala Flood victims or to ‘instantly’ spread hate messages on social media.
Technology operates us rather than the other way round. Technology is power; and we all know – Power Corrupts. This necessary evil, technology, is as good so long it is a servant and not a master.
Aryabhatta had rightly discovered that the earth rotates around the sun in an elliptical orbit; Sushruta did remarkable work in the field of medicine and surgery. All of these, and more, were without the aid of advanced technology. Thus, technology is a tool which makes humans’ life ‘faster’ and ‘easier’; but I doubt if it makes it any ‘better’.
Our human mind desires peace; for which it looks for tranquillity and isolation. Our mind then runs away from technology; disconnects from all the virtual spaces and wanders in reality. How often have we heard of people taking digital hiatuses and going offline to declutter their mind?!
What is required now is that the technology and the human mind co-exist in a harmonious tandem. Dr. B. L. Atreya, an Indian scholar said-
“A scientific age needs a scientific religion which is yet to be born.”
Who is man’s greatest enemy- the self-sufficient robots or the man himself? Time alone would be our judge.
Technology has already helped and harmed us enough. It is now time that we detach, step into the ‘real’ world, pause and ponder, smell the roses; and live. Let us become ‘human’ beings again rather than simply ‘technology-driven’ beings. Let us live in harmony with technology rather than at its mercy.
This Age needs more Wordsworths and Byrons than we need Scientists and Inventors!